Kids, Parents and Power Struggles by Mary Kurcinka
Kurcinka is best known as the author of Raising Your Spirited Child. While she still recommends that book for anyone, and this book covers what she calls spirited children as well, this geared more towards typical children. She starts with basics: first, set consistent standards for your family. If hitting is unacceptable, it must be unacceptable all the time and for everyone in the family. She gives warning signs of feelings that can get explosive, so that you and your child can recognize potential storms and head them off early. Next, and the heart of the book, know yourself and your child. It might seem like it, but your child has a reason for his or her actions besides driving you crazy. If you know where the triggers are, you’ll be better able to avoid them. Much of the book is devoted to figuring out temperament for yourself and your child, looking at such factors as low or high determination, intensity, caution and sensitivity. ** Then, she looks at some Myers-Briggs things, focusing especially on extroverts versus introverts and thinking versus feeling. For each of these, Kurcinka talks about how parents and children being the same or different can lead to conflicts. It turns out, for example, that LB and I are both highly determined people. We wake up with an agenda for the day and want to accomplish it. Naturally, our agendas can and often do come into conflict. But a low-sensitivity parent could also have trouble understanding their high sensitivity child if they didn’t realize that going to the mall or the amusement park was seriously and painfully over-stimulating to their child. Kurcinka also includes real-life examples for nearly all of these, ranging helpfully from toddlers to teens, and includes specific helpful phrases to use with children of each temperament trait, both for parents to use with children and for the children to use when upset.
After these basic personality types, she looks at stress levels, reminding parents that children can and do get stressed, often and unhelpfully at the same time that the parent is stressed. Here, she covers both symptoms of stress to watch out for and causes of stress beyond the usual divorce/move/new baby. Reading this I found out that toilet regression are a typical four-year old reaction to stress. Had our four-year-old suddenly been having many more accidents? Yes, indeed. I talked with him about it. He told me it was none of the other potential stressors that I mentioned to him, but that he is sad that his girlfriend hasn’t been at school the past couple of weeks. He has not had an accident since the conversation. The book moves on to medical issues and recognizing when you need outside help, as well as more details on setting standards that work for your family values and on finding appropriate consequences when identifying the problem doesn’t solve it. There’s also a good section on teaching children to be assertive rather than aggressive in finding solutions to their problems, both with adults and peers.
**[Updated 6/17/09]Due to multiple questions, the complete list of temperament types she looks at:
Persistence, Sensitivity, Adaptability, Intensity, Activity level, Regularity, First Reaction.
This is not the only parenting book on the market that talks about recognizing that kids have feelings and needs and how to teach them appropriate ways to express themselves. A few other books, such as The No-Cry Discipline Solution, also talk about recognizing how your own feelings affect your parenting. While these are fairly standard approaches in the parenting literature I read, they are handled well here. This book also does an exceptionally good job at covering parenting the whole age range, rather than concentrating on under or over five. In addition, the detailed, but easy-to-use coverage of temperament types makes it easy to recognize your particular issues and find solutions tailored to your child and family. I read it through twice in a row as I found it so helpful.